How To Spot & Fix Homophones So Content Is Clear
+ cheat sheet
Can you spot the mistake in the following sentence?
Yoga will benefit you’re life in many ways.
If you saw the mistake, you know that you’re should have been your.
Yoga will benefit your life in many ways.
Your and you’re are homophones. They’re words that sound alike but are spelled similarly and have different meanings.
In this post I’ve outlined some tips on how to spot incorrect word use, plus we’ll look at a few of the most common homophones you’ll come across as a proofreader.
I’ve also made a cheat sheet of the most-used homophones for you to reference 🙂
When You Don’t Spot Incorrect Word Use…
A common problem many people face is they become blind to homophones. While the average person can claim they missed them because they were “in the zone” and the words were flying by, professional proofreaders can’t use this excuse. It’s our responsibility to fix incorrect word usage.
By not correcting homophones, clients can be negatively affected. (It’s actually a big fear of mine that I’ll miss a homophone mistake!)
Their message will be changed and lose its power. There won’t be any resonance with the client’s target market, and the impact the client was going for becomes less effective.
Look at this poster headline: Join now and change you’re life with yoga!
What are your thoughts when you read this? Probably:
- I can’t believe they made a mistake. It should be “your”!
- Why would I listen to them when they can’t even spell properly?
- Yikes—this is soooo unprofessional!
When I do my cursory skim through a project I always make note of any incorrect homophone use I spot so I can address it in my thorough proofread.
How To Spot Homophones
You can’t rely on editing programs like Spell Check to catch homophones, especially if the mistakes are spelled correctly! When it comes to certain words like you’re, your, too and to, it’s easy to overlook them if you’re in a rush.
This is why some people like to do a backwards proofread. However, backwards proofreads are best if you’re proofreading your own work, and usually if it’s a short project, like a one or two page letter.
First off, I always have a pen and paper nearby when I’m working. Here’s my method for finding them:
> During my cursory skim, I’ll write down any incorrect use of homophones I spot and note the page number.
> When I come across homophones like they’re/their/there in a long sentence I’ll reread the sentence.
> For short projects like a blurb I’ll do a slo-mo read: read in a halted manner, as if each word is its own sentence.
> I do a whole document text search for common homophones or any specific ones I noted down.
> If it’s a short- or medium-length project I’ll look over the content again, making a point of looking for homophones.
Here’s the cheat sheet of the most common homophones, which you can grab here:
Do A Text Search
Obviously you’re gonna catch homophones better than the average person who doesn’t have a natural talent with words, but it’s always a good idea to do my final trick just in case you missed something.
When I’m finished I do a text search of the whole document for specific words. (You can find the following instructions in the downloadable cheat sheet.)
- For a Word or Adobe doc I do this by going back to the first page of the document and hit Command F. Make sure the cursor is on the first page.
- In Word a “Find and Replace” box will pop up, or a plain text box with arrows in Adobe.
- You can also go to your top toolbar and under Edit you’ll select Find.
- In the empty text box type in a word like you’re and hit enter (Adobe hit the arrow).
- To move on to the next use of the word click the “Find Next” button in Word or the arrow in Adobe.
- Word or Adobe will then take you to each occurrence of the word. Read the sentence it’s used in, making sure it’s the correct word for the context.
Do this Command F search for any homophones you noted. It doesn’t take long at all, and it’s so efficient in finding words you’ve missed.
Note: Don’t do an automatic “find and replace” on these words because you need to read the sentence to make sure the right word is used.
Here are some examples of homophones that get mixed up frequently:
Never share your home address on social media.
If you’re willing to learn, then nothing can stop you.
Emma drank too much wine and fell asleep by eight o’clock.
Sal went to check on the kids before he went to bed.
There were two of them in on the scheme.
Red said he’d help the students if they’re willing to putting in the time.
The dancers insisted on having their teacher dance with them.
Bo’s teacher told him to place the boxes over there, by the window.
Kim didn’t know if Aaron planned to work overtime or not.
“Tell them now, before it’s too late,” warned the detective.
There is no point in making dessert if everyone is watching their sugar intake.
These examples are just a fraction of all the homophones you’ll come across, and are commonly mixed up in content like blog posts and books.
It’s always worth it to put extra effort into spotting and fixing them. Make it a part of your proofreading process so you deliver high quality work.
Are there any homophones that always trip you up? Share in the comments section below!